“His middle name is Lee? So he’s named after you?” someone said to me at a family gathering last year.
“We'll, as you know, it's a common middle name in the fam﹘”
“No, he’s named after you,” said my niece, Brooke.
Those five words, spoken about her son, still make me emotional. I’m a never-married, 48-year-old who never expected to receive such an honor.
I tried to be a father-figure to Brooke when she was growing up. Looking back, my methods were often flawed, and I would do many things differently if I had a chance to do it all again. But those five words tell me I might have done a few things right, as well.
Brooke was born with cerebral palsy in her lower extremities. I’ve lost track of how many surgeries she endured ﹘ eight, nine, ten … somewhere in that neighborhood. I cried three seconds after they wheeled her off to the OR, every time, wishing I could take her place.
I attended her school plays and concerts, watching as she struggled with her walker to take her place by the other kids. One such memory is on replay in my mind. She was five or six when she rolled her way onstage to sing “Must Be Santa” with her classmates. She cut her eyes back and forth, spotted us in the crowd, waved, grinned and began to sing.
She was tiny, even at that age, which allowed me to lay flat on the floor, and lift her over me. She would spread her arms like a bird as I said, “Brooooookie Bird.” She giggled with delight.
She had this Raggedy Ann doll she called Dee Dee. She liked to lay on the floor next to me while I tossed Dee Dee straight up into the air so she could try to catch her.
“Higher,” she would say.
I’d toss Dee Dee a foot or two higher.
She laughed even harder when Dee Dee hit the ceiling. Hearing her uninhibited giggle did something to my soul every time I heard it. I would have thrown Dee Dee to the moon if it would have made Brooke happy.
Fast forward eight or ten years, and we are sitting in my car in front of her middle school. She’s about to go inside to perform in another school concert, but we were locked in a battle. I was responsible for getting her there that day, and she tried to pull a fast one on Uncle Lee. She had on more makeup than Tammy Faye Baker in her heyday.
You probably won’t believe this, but my bathroom wall still contains a speck of pink goop from that day, which means it’s been there more than a decade. I told her that a while back, and she said, “Eww, you haven’t washed it off yet?” She couldn’t understand when I told her I will never wash it off, but she will one day when her son does something in which she’ll want to have a tangible reminder.
Before she performed in her school concert that night, I made her go into the bathroom and wash off her masterpiece. She wasn’t happy, but she did it anyway. She has always shown me respect, even when she disagreed with me.
Fast forward ten more years, and Brooke is being wheeled off to another OR ﹘ this time for the birth of her son. And yes, I cried again three seconds after she was gone.
The next thing I knew, I was staring at my namesake through the nursery window, and I realized I really do get to do it all over again.
I have good news! "Common Ground: Contemplations, Confessions, and (Unexpected) Connections from the Coffee Shop" launched on the Kindle platform yesterday, and it is available for just $0.99 cents for a limited time.
The book will be exclusive to Amazon for 90 days, after which I’ll release e-versions for Kobo, Nook, iBooks and the rest of the major e-readers. I also plan to release a print version at that time.
Can you do me a couple of favors?
If you have a Kindle (or use the Amazon app on your tablet or phone), will you download a copy of the book today (here's a link)? A good sales day will help it climb the charts, which will allow new readers to find the book.
And then would you consider reading the book over the next seven days (it’s 30,000 words, so it’s not too long) for the purposes of leaving a review on Amazon.com (here’s a link to leave the review)? Reviews are the social proof that prospective readers need to give new books a chance. Without reviews, sales tend to stagnate quickly.
You don’t have to leave a long review. Just two or three sentences is fine. And I’m not asking you to leave a positive review, necessarily, just an honest one. With that said, if you see a typo in the book as you are reading it, would you shoot me an email to let me know so I can fix it?
I’m so excited about the launch of this book. As I mentioned in my previous email to you, the idea for it stemmed from wondering if was the only one. That might sound like an incomplete sentence, but it isn’t. Deep down, we all have hidden battles. I figured that if I uncovered a few of mine (which makes me feel more vulnerable than I ever have), then you might be able to relate.
In the coming weeks, I'll be giving away a few Starbucks e-gift cards in celebration of the book's release. To be eligible, all you have to do is join my free email list. By doing so, you'll hear about the best deals on my books as well as being eligible for future giveaways.